When you think of Sweden it is easy to become wrapped up in stereotypes, especially in a modern world which thrives on such preconceptions. Before going myself last month I found myself thinking of classic stories with a Viking twist, of blonde women with large breasts, and meatballs as far as the eye can see. However, when coming to the capital of Sweden I have found myself humbled and transformed by a city of rare beauty and transcendent culture that easily met and surpassed every expectation I had.
The city as work of art
To call Stockholm a city would be like calling a Carl Larson masterpiece a painting – such a word fails to capture the majesty and presence of the capital itself.
Built on several islands, Stockholm is a place of rare beauty with beautifully maintained traditional buildings rising up on the horizon and decked out in a spectrum of pastel colours. The effect at first seemed kitcsh and cute, but as I wandered the city, I soon found myself in awe of the architecture and shades of pink and gold that made up part of the decor. It was this magical quality that made Stockholm stand out in stark relief to the grey and blue skylines of London to which I had long become accustomed.
Indeed thanks to the work the Council for the Protection of the Beauty of Stockholm much of the city is designed to hold true to it’s aesthetic traditions. While this means that much of the skyscrapers and high rises you might see in other cities are notably absent, it allows visitors to the capital to absorb the local flavour and sumptuous grandeur of the city at large. It makes it very easy to wander for hours in afternoon, camera in hand, filling your memory card with image after image to show everyone back home.
A unique spin on public transport
For those of tourists with an eye for the exotic, the fun doesn’t begin and end with the architecture, though there are several tremendous examples of this in the city. Indeed the capital is a rare delight by combining a love of metropolis with a love of nature.
Being built on … islands, Stockholm has a rich connection to its rivers, lakes and to the sea which are a constant presence here. Being a rare geographic wonder this gives any hardcore traveller a rare treat as they can travel to to each of the various islands by ferry or water bus, giving Stockholm it’s own unique spin on transport.
While it is possible to keep yourself on just one island, such as the fashionable hub that is Sodermalm, it would be remiss of me not to recommend venturing onto the ferry and cross the water to Djurgarden which remains some of the resident’s favourite recreation areas and a wonder for the eyes of any visitor wanting to take in the various flavours of the place.
As well as being a triumph of form, Stockhom also manages to be tremendously functional with a terrific metro system that puts most other’s to shame (ahem, London Underground). In particular the Arlanda Express which runs between the heart of the city and the popular Arlanda airport is luxurious offering travellers a glimpse into how terrific a destination this is.
Beyond the beauty of the surroundings though Stockholm also represents a rich cultural heritage which is staggering to behold. Blending rich Swedish history with a contemporary spin there are several great attractions to please any world traveller.